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EU proposes complete ban on Russian oil in sixth sanctions package

EU proposes complete ban on Russian oil in sixth sanctions package
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposed on Wednesday that the 27-member bloc ban Russian oil in response to the Kremlin's war in Ukraine. File Photo by Stephanie Lecocq/EPA-EFE

May 4 (UPI) -- The head of the European Union on Wednesday proposed to member states a complete ban on Russian oil as part of the bloc's sixth sanctions package to be levied against Russia over its war in Ukraine.

"This will be a complete import ban on all Russian oil, seaborne and pipeline, crude and refined," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the European Parliament.

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Von der Leyen said the plan will see a complete phase out of Russian crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year, giving member states time to secure alternative supply routes and to minimize the impact the shift will have on global markets.

The ban, she said, will maximize pressure on Russia while minimizing collateral damage to member states and their parters worldwide.

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"To help Ukraine, our own economy has to remain strong," she said.

The 27-member bloc had vowed in March to reduce dependency on Russian energy and banned Russian coal early last month as part of its fifth sanctions package against the Kremlin.

The EU head addressed in her remarks to parliament on Wednesday that the oil ban will be difficult with some member states greatly dependent upon Russia for their energy supply.

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According to a report produced by the union last month, 27% of its oil imports, 40% of its total gas consumption and 46% of its coal came from Russia with energy accounting for 62% of EU total imports from the country at a cost of $104 billion.

"Let's be clear: It will not be easy because some member states are strongly dependent on Russian oil, but we simply have to do it," she said.

Along with the oil ban, the sanctions package also includes punitive measures imposed against high-ranking military officers and those responsible for the siege on the city of Mariupol and who've committed war crimes in Bucha, a city that has come to represent the brutality of Russia's war.

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Early last month, the bodies of hundreds of civilians were found bloodied and strewn about the streets of Bucha after the retreat of Russian troops from the city.

Ukrainian prosecutors have filed charges against Russian soldiers for committing war crimes in the city near the capital Kyiv while the United Nations high commissioner of Human Rights said it documented during its one-day trip to the city unlawful killings, including summary executions of 50 civilians.

Von der Leyen said hitting those who committed war crimes in Bucha and the siege of Mariupol with sanctions "sends another important signal to all perpetrators of the Kremlin's war: We know who you are, and you will be held accountable."

A mass grave is seen behind a church in the town of Bucha, northwest of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, on Monday. April 4, 2022. Ukraine and Western nations accused Russian troops of war crimes after the discovery of the mass graves and civilians who were apparently executed near Kyiv,. One rescue official said 57 people were found in one hastily dug trench behind a church. Photo by Vladyslav Musienko/UPI

The package will also remove Sberbak, the largest back in Russia, from the SWIFT international payment system that connects banks worldwide.

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"By that, we hit banks that are systemically critical to the Russian financial system and Putin's ability to wage destruction," she said. "This will solidify the complete isolation of the Russian financial sector from the global system."

She also proposed the banning of three Russian state-owned broadcasters from EU airways including from cable, satellite, Internet and smartphones.

The channels have been identified by the EU as mouthpieces that amplify Putin's message, she said, adding they will also cut the Kremlin off from European accountants, consultants and "spin-doctors."

With these combined sanctions, the EU will be depriving the Russian economy from the ability to diversify and modernize, she said.

"Putin wanted to wipe Ukraine from the map. He will clearly not succeed," she said. "On the contrary: Ukraine has risen up in unity, and it is his own country, Russia, that Putin is sinking."

Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 under the pretext to denazify and demilitarize the country.

Since then, nearly 3,200 Ukrainian civilians have been killed and nearly 5.6 million have been forced to flee the country, according to United Nations data.

Along with the EU, democratic nations such as Britain, Canada and the United States have repeatedly leveled punitive measures including sanctions against Russia, which have already taken a bit out of Moscow's economy.

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On Wednesday, Australia imposed sanctions against 110 Russians over their country's war for a total of more than 800 people.

The sanctions package proposed by von der Leyen on Wednesday will be debated and voted on by member states before it can be enacted.

According to the European Council, the EU has sanctioned 1,093 people and 80 entities in connection to Russia's aggression against Ukraine going back to March of 2014 when Moscow annexed Crimea.

Scenes from Ukraine: Destruction, atrocities and mourning

Priest Andrii Gavalin presides over the funeral of Eugene Bogdanov, 35, in Bucha, Ukraine, on May 10. Bogdanov went missing two months ago. His wife, Natalia Bogdanova, was searching for him throughout the Kyiv and Bucha regions when his body was found at a morgue in Belaya Tserkov on May 9. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

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